On Day 3 of Vegan Dreamquest 2011, I decided to round out my vegan dinner experiences (takeaway burito, home-cooked beetloaf with gravy), by going out. Radical Eats was my first choice, but they aren't open on Monday and Tuesday. Mounting laziness and escalating traffic led my dining companion and I to The Hobbit Cafe, whose online menu had a number of items tagged with a "Make it Vegan!!" option.
I eat often at The Hobbit Cafe, though up until this point I had always ordered meat-heavy entrees like the terrific Far Down and Dwalin sandwiches. The vegetarian items looked inviting (most loaded with cheese, how could you lose?), but I had my doubts about how a heretofore decent dish would taste once stripped of all animal products.
I ordered the Soy Burger and asked the server to "make it vegan" (i.e., no mayonnaise). I also ordered an appetizer of guacamole and chips and a side of fries (the latter two allegedly fried in vegetable oil), hoping that would that would satisfy my hunger should the soy patty be small and/or bland as mud.
When the burger arrived, it was obvious size wouldn't be an issue. The Hobbit Cafe is known for its generous portions, and the burger was about three times the size of a hockey puck (without the bun). Add avocado, lettuce, and tomato, and I had a two-handed sandwich that begged to be cut in half lest I drip toppings all over my $8 Ross sundress (the horror!).
The texture surprised me, as I expected the burger to be fleshy and even a bit greasy like the supermarket soy varieties I've tried. Instead, it was denser and drier, though not not to the point of dessication. A mixture of soy and grains made for a soft, creamy, and pleasantly unwieldy patty; it was falling apart on its own and within the first three bites it separated into three large hunks. Taste-wise: not particularly complex but pleasantly spicy and filling. Guacamole increased the kick as did some ketchup and relish. If The Hobbit Cafe had offered vegannaise, I might have lobbed some of that on there too because, really, isn't soy best used as a vehicle for other flavors?
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I was satisfied, not not blown away by my vegan burger, but that's just fine. Unlike better (meat) burgers I've enjoyed, the soy burger provided a more even overall consumption experience. That is to say, I felt good eating it, felt good afterwards, and more importantly, felt good the next morning. A double with mushrooms and cheese at Christian's Tailgate is orgasmically delicious on the lips but a real bitch in the lower digestive tract when you're trying to run a few hours later.